Three quarters of long Covid patients consuming problematic levels of alcohol

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NEARLY THREE QUARTERS of people with long Covid were consuming concerning levels of alcohol one year after they caught the virus, according to new research.

Two new studies have found that complications arising from long Covid are primarily brain related – not heart and lung conditions, as previously thought.

The studies, which took place in the Mater Hospital’s Long Covid Clinic in partnership with North Dublin GPs, have determined that psychological and psychiatric problems, such as anxiety and depression, are much more prevalent in Long Covid patients than in the general public.

Some 18.3% of participants had moderate to severe signs of depression for at least one year, with 21% showing PTSD-type symptoms during that time.

72% of participants had concerning alcohol use at one year. The research paper said that “depression, anxiety, and PTSD may be more prevalent among Long COVID patients that have a history of mental illness and / or who experienced more severe forms of acute COVID-19 infection.

“Links between alcohol misuse and psychiatric issues have been well documented over the years, but to our knowledge, no studies have yet examined this relationship in a Long COVID cohort.”

The researchers said that patients with no previous history of depression or anxiety prior to their Covid-19 infection are now presenting to the clinic with neurological conditions.

Prof Jack Lambert, a consultant in infectious diseases at the Mater Hospital and
professor at the UCD School of Medicine, said: “While during the ‘first wave’ of Covid-19 it was anticipated that the enduring complications of the infection would be primarily cardiac and pulmonary, our research has clearly indicated this is not the case. Within just six months of commencing the study, it was evident that the long-term problems our patients are facing are neurological and neuropsychiatric.”

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His associate Dr Brendan O’Kelly said: “Clinical depression, anxiety and PTSD are serious debilitating illnesses, and they have also been seen more frequently among participants who had been hospitalised for acute Covid-19 or in those who had experienced lengthy ICU stays.

“More broadly, patients in this study with any symptoms at one year had significant impacts on their physical health and had reduced quality of life. It is important that these individuals are supported throughout the country and that clinicians and policymakers are mindful of these findings.”

A quarter of all patients presenting at the Mater’s Covid-19 follow-up clinic are still experiencing symptoms a year after their initial infection. Some 43% of long Covid patients
still experienced considerable fatigue at the 12-month mark, the researchers said. A third are experiencing difficulties concentrating and “brain fog”.

Prof Lambert also called for further support to be rolled out throughout Ireland. He said: “There needs to be support for GPs in all regions of Ireland, in terms of training guidance and resourcing, to work in partnership with the Long Covid clinics so that all those who need it can access appropriate care.”

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